How do employee’s needs change under COVID-19?

The implementation of working from home is changing how employees and employers work together.

Despite the measures taken in boosting productivity from past pandemics (e.g. SARS, H1N1, Spanish Flu) to natural disasters, and also the expansion of “Work-Life balance”, the concept of WFH (Working from Home) was a privilege only to those with a reliable access to remote working along with the essential infrastructure.

But in this day and age, there’s plenty we can do to improve how we collaborate and connect with each other by understanding our behavioural instincts in these testing times…

Understand the Evolving Needs of Employees.

In light of COVID-19, WFH is anticipated to be the new norm worldwide, especially to the uninitiated.

While this may be a bitter pill to swallow for both companies and employees who fear the gloom of impending stagnation, now is the time to cultivate a comfortable working environment and condition a positive and resilient mind-set together.

A tribute to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs*, here’s how we can demystify the evolving needs of employees in every workplace by revisiting ancient wisdom for a brave new workplace.

*Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

Observe the Fundamental Levels of Employment

Level 1 — Job Security

“I’ve got bills to pay, I’ve got mouths to feed!”

Employees’ Needs:

Guaranteeing the minimum standard of living is a priority.
Every employee seeks assurance with anxious concerns over salary, health care, and working conditions that weigh heavily in their minds.

Employer/Company Solutions:

Truth be told, it can be very difficult too for employers to guarantee employment amidst economic uncertainty.

Enter Human Resources, the transparent messiah who communicates the maintenance of a guaranteed working environment, health benefits and leave management.

Now is the time to check-in with them and find out what’s outlined in your contract if you haven’t done so.

Level 2 — Basic Working Environment

“Nope, I don’t own a laptop.”
“But I’ve got five kids and one more on the way…”

Employees’ Needs:

Maintaining a basic WFH environment is crucial to ensure the continuity of remote work — Its importance depends on the industry, family environment, family status and etc.

Your digital literacy will go a long way during this quarantine and help you juggle through work and taking charge of home-based learning for your child, just like the super-parent you are.

No laptop? Seek help from your IT Support!

Employer/Company Solutions:

Set a proper work environment and tool facilitation that anticipates workplace disruptions.

The specific essentials and requirements are as follows:

  • Hardware such as PC, mobile phone, and furniture.
  • Software such as stable and high-speed internet communication, communication tools such as e-mail and messenger, personal information protection and security, software necessary for industry.
  • E-learning and educational tools for minimum literacy development and guarantee.
  • Family care to focus on work, for instance, Child Care or Elderly care.

Level 3 — Comfort of Work

“Working from home can be as easy as Sunday Morning.”

Employees’ Needs:

Now that you’ve sorted out the basics, it’s time to hit the ground running.
But before you start sprinting, remember that this WFH exercise is a marathon. It could be the most comfortable marathon of your life, only if you know how to balance comfort and work productivity.

It’s all up to you to find what out what feels good without compromising on work efficiency.

Employer/Company Solutions:

Goodbye mundane meetings, say hello to virtual meetings!

High quality services and tools are welcome here. Just make sure that your video conference platforms are stable enough to accommodate your invited participants.

We can’t emphasise enough on the importance of Project Management services and CRM software/tools that maximise and measure your productivity and performance for a smooth day at work, from home.

Level 4 — Connected Relationships

“Futures are made of Virtual Intimacy.”

Employees’ Needs:

Introverts and extroverts alike are bound by a human condition.
All of us require a sense of being connected with our team members and colleagues. It can be as easy as sharing a funny GIF or an insightful article to shake off any form of social anxiety!

Also, physical distances can drive paranoia, especially when it comes to our communication and evaluation by our managers and bosses.

Past research* reveals that remote workers are more connected to peers, but especially new remote workers feel isolated/away from the workplace.

* 87% of workers feel more connected through the video conference tool according to HBR research.

Employer/Company Solutions:

There’s always room for improved communication between employees and managers, from project management tools to communication platforms.
Stay in touch regularly or leverage performance and engagement tools to accelerate visualised results when needed.

You’ll never know when WFH will no longer be an emergency counteraction and instead, be the new standard of work post COVID-19.

So, make use of this time to reassess employee benefits and work regulations with WFH as a lifestyle option.

Level 5 — Purposeful Work

“You are Someone’s Reason to Smile.”

Employees’ Needs:

Even though employees focus on the security of their underlying work, they also want to feel that they are still a member of society.

As a citizen of society, employees need to feel a sense of contributing to society, and that eventually leads to self-actualisation.

If you haven’t embarked on any projects for a good cause, it’s never too late to get started on a humanitarian project right now.

When goodness prevails, humanity never fails.

Employer/Company Solutions:

The fear of an economic recession is the ultimate trial of any leader.

This is a crucial period for leaders to signal their intent with clarity and purpose to their organisation as a guiding light that leads by example.

But beyond rose-tinted lenses, any deliberated solution remains highly dependent on the market and circumstances of the company, as well as the stage of your employee’s needs.

Working from home shouldn’t be so hard.

Take time to reflect on what has happened in the past week, month and year and use these points as a guide if you have been struggling to make sense of this brave new world of virtual insanity.

  • Was WFH as difficult as you made it out to be?
  • Have you noticed an improvement in your personal well-being?
  • How productive are you in your down-time?

In essence, WFH realises a more comfortable and cost-effective work environment, despite its initial investment for a conducive remote work environment setup.

But of course, arrangements for a proper WFH work style begins with a proper understanding of our employee needs, whether he or she is a digital native, a seasoned technophobe, or the sole breadwinner of five monstrous children.
Empathy isn’t fashionable, it’s essential for us to get through this together, pandemic or not.

Credit & References

Gartner:
https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/early-covid-19-lessons-learned-from-employers-in-asia/

HBR:
https://hbr.org/2020/03/communicating-through-the-coronavirus-crisis

Business New Daily:
https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8156-future-of-remote-work.html

Wright Technologies:
https://wrighttechnologies.com/best-technologies-for-working-remotely/